Agreement Has Sown the Seeds of Lawlessness; Have Justice and the Enforcement of the Law Become Outmoded Concepts in Post-Agreement Ulster? East Londonderry MP William Ross Believes So
Ross, William, The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland)
I HAVE nothing but the utmost sympathy for the families of the victims of the Omagh bomb and I understand their plea for "justice before forgiveness".
Unfortunately for the victims of that dreadful day two years ago and, indeed for us all, justice and the enforcement of the rule of law appear to have become outmoded concepts in Northern Ireland.
No more clearly has this abstention from the administration of law and order been seen than in the response to the escalation of the inter-loyalist feud presently scarring our streets.
How dare the Secretary of State persist in sustaining the farcical facade that the ceasefires are still in place? How dare he say that individuals may be engaged in criminal activity but organisations have not. What is a paramilitary organisation but a collection of individuals acting under that banner?
It is surely no coincidence that this upsurge in violence is occurring only a matter of weeks after the end of the early releases. Had the government heeded the countless warnings there would have been no need to re-arrest Johnny Adair as he would still be in the Maze.
The spectacle of Protestant murdering Protestant and loyalist attacking loyalist is viewed with absolute dismay by the community on the Shankill Road and beyond. Sinn Fein/IRA must be sitting back and laughing, as the loyalist paramilitaries do what the republicans couldn't in 30 years of terrorism - by pulling the Protestant people apart.
I watched the events of Monday unfold with sadness but not surprise because the source is well known.
The Good Friday Agreement was heralded by the great and the good as an opportunity to build a peaceful society but the reality is sadly and starkly different.
Figures compiled by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Bureau show that since the signing of the Agreement, 55 men, women and children have been murdered by loyalist and republican terrorists, painting a picture of a province where peace in the normal sense is a distant dream.
I believe that the Belfast Agreement cannot establish a society based upon the rule of law for it abandons the fundamental concept of retribution for crimes.
How can anybody who saw the chilling show of strength by the UDA/UFF on the Shankill Road or the subsequent proceedings believe that we sit at the dawn of a bright new beginning?
In several key areas, rather than cementing the rule of law, the Belfast Agreement has uprooted it.
Not only was the early release scheme one of the most controversial sections but also the document's most vivid example of terrorist overcoming the natural course of justice.
Seeing mass murderers like Stone and Kelly and terrorist godfathers like Adair walk free after serving only a fraction of their sentences diminishes respect for the laws used to prosecute them and sets an awful example that the punishment doesn't always fit the crime.
The equivocation over the destruction of illegally held terrorist weapons and explosives with the dismantling of security structures and the disengagement of military personnel is an affront to the forces of law and order.
It is both illogical and offensive that security forces and counter-terrorist measures have been traded off in the hope but not reality of achieving decommissioning. …